Published originally by Rep. Kathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and members of the Abraham Accords Caucus in the House and Senate today introduced legislation to unite Middle East partners as global threats from Iran and Iranian backed-extremists continue to rise. The bipartisan, bicameral Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses (DEFEND) Act is a joint effort by Congress to develop a strategy for Abraham Accords and other countries to combat Iranian aggression threatening peace and security in the Middle East.

The DEFEND Act authorizes the U.S. Secretary of Defense to cooperate with allies and partners in the Middle East–including those who signed the Abraham Accords–to develop and implement an integrated air and missile defense architecture to defend against Iranian threats. The bill also requires the Department of Defense to issue a report to Congress on the feasibility of establishing a fund for an integrated defense system to counter threats–including cruise and ballistic missiles, manned and unmanned aerial systems, and rocket attacks–as well as support defense efforts in the region and protect global security.

“Iran has proven time and time again that they will stop at nothing to threaten the safety and security of Israel and our allies in the Middle East working together to achieve peace in the region,” said Rodgers. “That progress towards a more hopeful future cannot continue unless the United States takes a stand against Iran’s escalating acts of aggression. The DEFEND Act sends a clear message that our country is prepared to do what it takes to help our allies protect themselves, save lives, and preserve the peace we’ve worked so hard to achieve.”

Rodgers was joined in introducing the DEFEND Act in the House by fellow Abraham Accords Caucus members, including Representatives David Trone (MD-06), Ann Wagner (MO-02), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Don Bacon (NE-02), and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20).

“Now, more than ever, Iran poses a threat to security and stability in the Middle East. History makes clear that we must work together to ensure the continued safety and peace in the region,” said Trone. “The DEFEND Act symbolizes the spirit of collaboration fostered by the Abraham Accords and signifies a critical measure that would help countries defend against Iranian threats. I urge my colleagues to support the protection of innocent lives.”

“I have always said that the Abraham Accords would transform Middle Eastern security, at last enabling responsible states to work together to keep each other safe from Iran’s destabilizing and violent agenda. I am hopeful we are witnessing the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity in the Middle East,” said Wagner. “To further these accomplishments and safeguard that peace and prosperity, I am proud to support the DEFEND Act, legislation that will ensure the United States leads our Middle Eastern allies and partners in the creation of an integrated air and missile defense capability to deter an aggressive and erratic Iran.”

“Iran is on the one yard line in their pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and is threatening our allies in the region in numerous other ways. Strengthening our allies by building unity and enhancing shared security capabilities is critical to confronting Iranian threats to the region,” said Schneider. “US leadership, in developing integrated air and missile defense, would provide essential security, stability, and a unified defense to the region. The DEFEND Act is a prime example of the important, bipartisan, bicameral work that Congress must prioritize in our pursuit of regional peace and stability,” 

“The security of our partners in the Middle East is important for U.S. national security and is imperative in the wake of an increasingly violent Iranian regime,” said Bacon. “An integrated air and missile defense system is key to combating attacks from Iran and its proxies and improving regional stability. Air defense is also a force multiplier. When our allies and partners can defend themselves, it offers relief to U.S. forces.”

“Even as we continue to negotiate with Iran, Iranian aggression against our partners in the Middle East continues with missile and advanced drone attacks,” said Panetta.  “That is why I’m proud to join my bipartisan and bicameral colleagues in introducing the DEFEND Act.  This legislation would provide an integrated air and missile defense system to not only secure the skies in the Middle East, but also support and protect our partners and their partnership in their efforts for peace.”

The DEFEND Act was also introduced by members of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus, including Senators Jon Ernst (R-IA), James Lankford (R-OK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). The bipartisan, bicameral legislation received the endorsement of the following organizations:

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
“The DEFEND Act advances the opportunities established by the Abraham Accords, and it underscores the essential role of Congress in supporting a new future for the Middle East. By directing a strategic approach to cooperative missile defense and counter-UAV coordination, this legislation strengthens the US-Israel partnership as it enhances regional cooperation against common security threats.”

American Jewish Committee (AJC)
“The Abraham Accords opened new lines of collaboration, allowing governments new resources and new allies to address regional challenges—from Iran’s aggression and nuclear ambitions to religious extremism, incitement, and political unrest. A U.S. strategy outlining potential cooperation on military acquisition, missile defense, and countering UAVs can give key allies and emerging partners the incentives and tools to address these challenges together.”

American Jewish Congress
“The DEFEND Act presents a needed vision for a new security architecture in the Middle East – one that proactively builds on the remarkable diplomatic developments that we have seen between Israel and Arab partners. By promoting the integration of defense capabilities among our Middle Eastern allies and partners, the United States can further encourage these stunning cooperative efforts. This bill contributes to our national security priorities, safeguards Israel, and defends our crucial allies in the region. More importantly, it combats the rising military threat posed by Iran, at its source.

“We are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Ernst, Rosen, Booker, Lankford, and Reps. McMorris Rodgers, Schneider, Bacon, Panetta, Trone, and Wagner who are working to make this legislation a reality. Moreover, we urge all of Congress to give the DEFEND Act the swift, fair, and necessary passage it deserves.”

Christians United For Israel (CUFI) Action Fund
“Iran is the central threat to not only Israel, but to all countries in the region who oppose the malign goals of Tehran’s radical regime. Taking necessary steps towards a regional missile defense plan is critical to countering Iran and is yet another blow against those who oppose normalization with Israel.”

FDD Action
“FDD Action supports the policy goals included in the Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses (DEFEND) Act. The legislation will provide the U.S. and allies in the Middle East a coordinated strategy to counter-unmanned aircraft systems technologies. As part of the extension of the Abraham Accords, the U.S. should continue to initiate, develop and enhance military to military relationships between the U.S, Israel and other U.S. allies and partners in the region. Integrated defense against the threat of unmanned aircraft systems should be jointly pursued and this legislation would begin to establish that as U.S. policy.”

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
“U.S. support for Israel’s defense is critical for building peace and prosperity in the Middle East. Hadassah applauds Senators Ernst, Rosen, Lankford, and Booker and Representatives Trone, Wagner, Bacon, Panetta, McMorris, and Schneider for introducing the DEFEND Act, which will strengthen cooperative defense across strategic allies in the Middle East to protect Israel and its neighbors against growing threats from Iran and its proxies.”

Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)
“The Abraham Accords are the most significant advancement towards peace between the nations of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf in decades, and deserve the United States’ strongest possible support. The Jewish Federations of North America are deeply appreciative of the Congressional Abraham Accords Caucus’s bipartisan leadership and strongly support its effort to expand and fortify the meaningful relationships between Israel and her neighbors. We look forward to the valuable recommendations this legislation will produce to expand those relationships beyond the realm of economic cooperation and into both shared threats and U.S. strategic interests in the region.”

Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) 
“The United States has a fundamental interest in strengthening the Abraham Accords, one of the greatest developments in the Middle East in decades. As JINSA recommended earlier this year, one way this can be done is by increasing the capacity of America’s most capable Middle East partners to work together to defend against shared threats in the air domain, especially the growing missile and drone threat posed by Iran and its terrorist proxies. We applaud the House and Senate Abraham Accords Caucuses for their leadership in introducing the DEFEND Act, which will be a major step in ensuring that the accords achieve their full potential.”

Senior Middle East scholars at the Atlantic Council
“The Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses (DEFEND) Act of 2022 represents a critical bipartisan initiative, spearheaded by the Senate and House Abraham Accords Caucuses, to foster and deepen regional cooperative missile and air defense coordination among key US allies and partners in the Middle East. The bill underscores the continued imperative for and prioritization of US engagement in the region, and moreover showcases the growing capacity of the normalization process to transform regional relations and security integration.”

CLICK HERE to read the bill.

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.